Asked if he might have settled on the optimum system after wins over West Ham, Aston Villa and Tottenham playing 4-2-3-1, Pellegrini said: “No, I don’t think so. I think that a big team must play with two strikers at least, or three, if you see Barcelona play with (Luis) Suarez, Neymar and (Lionel) Messi, and Real Madrid play with (Karim) Benzema, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and (Gareth) Bale. “But I don’t think that is the most important thing. The important thing is in the way you play and the style you want to have with your team.” Aguero has profited in the new system, scoring in each of those last three games to take his tally for the campaign to 28. But in past seasons the Argentinian has benefited more from the presence of a reliable partner. He has not had that this term with Alvaro Negredo having left, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic having lacked form and fitness and new signing Wilfried Bony yet to spark. Bony, the £28million January signing, has so far been a disappointment, scoring just once, but Pellegrini insists the Ivorian will come good and solve more problems than he creates. He said: “It is not a problem – it is a solution to the problem. Both of them are, and Edin Dzeko in some moments. “Last year was Negredo with Kun (Aguero), Dzeko with Negredo, Dzeko with Kun, and Jovetic, and we scored 156 goals during the whole season. Top scorer Sergio Aguero has been the lone frontman as City have found some stabilty after a rocky spell by winning their last three Barclays Premier League games. But Pellegrini does not feel this necessarily represents the best system and would rather operate with more forwards, even though his reliance on his favoured 4-4-2 has brought mixed results – and criticism – this season. Press Association “I never think that good players and strikers can be a problem.” Pellegrini believes relegation-threatened QPR, this weekend’s opponents at the Etihad Stadium, can also be flexible in their attack. Seven points adrift of a safe position with three games to play, Rangers have little room for error in their survival battle and Pellegrini expects them to look to get forward. He said: “Maybe in the position they are in in the table, they need to win the three games. “Maybe you can come here with two strikers, as they did against us in London with (Bobby) Zamora or (Charlie) Austin or they can speculate and try to win the game on the counter-attack. “But it doesn’t matter who is the team we must play against, they are always difficult teams with difficult players. “It is very important to keep the same spirit we had in the last three games.” City’s last three results have seen them all but secure a top-four position and get back into contention for the runners-up spot behind Chelsea. They will still need a slip-up from Arsenal to claim second, but their position is at least looking better than a month ago. When City crashed to a humiliating 4-2 derby loss at Manchester United in April, their title bid was not only shattered but they even looked in danger of missing out on the Champions League. Speculation over the future of Pellegrini and a number of players was rife. Pellegrini said: “It is important to finish well. We have won three games in a row. We have three games more and it is important for our team to try and win all the games. “It doesn’t depend on our team if we are going to be second or not because if Arsenal win all their games they will be second. “But it is important to finish as near to the top of the table as we can.” Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini could toy with the idea of playing three strikers as he looks for a long-term winning formula.
GREGORY DIXON/Herald photoBacked by a raucous home crowd, the UW volleyball team tricked previously undefeated No. 2 Penn State Friday night at the Field House. The Badgers fed off the energy of the largely costumed crowd of 5,487 — the second largest home crowd of the season — to treat fans to a 30-22, 30-28, 30-25 victory.UW outside hitter Maria Carlini led the way offensively, totaling 15 kills and a .314 hitting percentage.According to Carlini, the key to the Badgers’ success was enjoying the moment.”We were connecting so well, it was awesome,” Carlini said. “We had so much fun playing and I think when you have a lot of fun, everything’s going well.” UW seized the early momentum midway through the first game. Tied 7-7, with freshman Brittney Dolgner serving, UW ripped off a nine-point scoring run, including two Dolgner aces and three Taylor Reineke kills. Setter Jackie Simpson collected 15 game one assists en route to a match-high 48. Simpson’s 48 assists tied an individual season-high for assists in a three-game match. “I think she had an awesome night,” head coach Pete Waite said. “That’s the difference in our team. When she is on like that and she delivers the ball so the hitters are in a great rhythm, that makes for some wins for us, no doubt about it.”Game two saw the Badgers and Nittany Lions see-saw points back and forth. UW never led by more than one point until Amy Bladow blocked Penn State middle hitter Melissa Walbridge’s hit to give UW a 30-28 victory. The block was one of four in game two for the Badgers, and sent the Field House crowd into a frenzy as the teams headed off the court.”We can’t give them any runs,” Waite explained. “They are very good at just getting runs on people, starting with their serve.””You saw how excited we all get, getting big blocks like that,” Bladow said. “That was a great way to end the second game and I think it helped a lot with the momentum coming into the third.”The game two lead put UW in a commanding position heading into intermission — up two games to none — and one it necessarily did not expect to be in.”That’s always where we want to be going into the locker room,” Bladow said. “Of course, against a team like Penn State, you’re never gonna go in there believing you’re gonna be — I mean you always want to be up 2-0 — but you’re never going to go into a game underestimating a team.”UW was able to slow Nittany Lions thanks in large part to a great defensive effort against one of the league’s top freshman in Penn State’s Megan Hodge. The reigning Big Ten co-player of the week was held to a hitting percentage of zero.”She hit some phenomenal shots and angles, but I think that says a lot about for the discipline of our block,” Waite said. “To hold her to that hitting percentage means our defense and block worked very well tonight.”Down two games to none, Penn State came out determined not to give up their unblemished record without a fight. The two teams battled in another evenly matched game. Leading 28-25, with the Field House seemingly ready to lose its lid, Reineke took service. Following a rally, Bladow and Simpson combined to block Nicole Fawcett’s attack. When Kate Price was unable to return Reineke’s match-point serve, UW’s upset bid became a reality. As the UW team celebrated near the net, they were joined almost immediately by the “Block Party” student section, which stormed the court.After the game, a frustrated Penn State coach Russ Rose said he felt his team was unable to settle into the game.”I thought it was a match where we never really got into synch,” Rose said. “I think you attribute that to how well Wisconsin played, and the energy in the building was a factor … we just never found ourselves in a good rhythm.”Following a day off, UW took to the court again Sunday against Ohio State. Coming off the emotional upset win over Penn State, the Badgers avoided a letdown by beating the Buckeyes 30-15, 30-23, 30-20 behind a career performance from Taylor Reineke. The weekend sweep made amends for the Badgers’ losses to those same teams on the road earlier this season.Reineke led the Badgers with a career-record tying 14 kills and an impressive .722 hitting percentage. Reineke also pitched in seven blocks on defense.”[Ohio State] beat us in five last time, and I didn’t want that to happen ever again, especially on our home court,” Reineke said.Waite and his players expressed gratitude for the layoff between Friday’s emotional high and Sunday’s game.”I think it worked out well that we had a day in between, they could come off that high and rest a little bit. We were solid today,” Waite said.UW jumped out to a big lead early and parlayed that strong start to the first game victory and a sweep to avoid the dreaded letdown.”It was big. We talked about that, about coming out fast,” Waite said. “We were very aggressive from the beginning. That’s a very good sign for our team.”